The program is one of nine career pathways programs being evaluated under the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families. This brief summarizes the random control study to assess the effectiveness of focused health care training for low-income, Latino and older than traditional college students through the Carreras en Salud (which in English means "Careers in Health") nonprofit organization located in Chicago, Illinois.

Almost all jobs in healthcare require some level of postsecondary education or training, but many low-income, low-skilled adults face considerable barriers to completing even short-term training for entry-level jobs. Carreras en Salud is helping low-income Latinos improve their basic skills and enroll in occupational training to gain the necessary skills and credentials for jobs as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).

Carreras en Salud's approach comprised the following elements:

  • A structured training pathway in nursing, starting at low basic skills/English as a Second Language (ESL) levels, provided on-site and continuing to college occupational training courses.
  • Contextualized and accelerated basic skills/ESL courses. These 16-week classes are designed to improve English and math skills within the context of healthcare.
  • Academic advising for all students. Non-academic advising and support for basic skills/ESL students, including one-on-one counseling to address barriers, and assistance with childcare and transportation.
  • Assistance covering training expenses in the form of no-cost basic skills/ESL classes and staff assistance to students applying for financial aid for college courses.
  • Employment services including one-on-one job search assistance, a job readiness workshop, and job development to identify healthcare-related job openings.

For PACE, the program randomly assigned 800 study participants to either the treatment group or to the control group. Research questions posed in the study include:

  1. What intervention was actually implemented? Did it deviate from plans or expectations?
  2.  What were students’ participation patterns and experiences with program services?
  3. What were the effects of Carreras en Salud on educational attainment, including hours of occupational training and basic skills instruction received and receipt of credentials, and other educational outcomes?

Major Findings & Recommendations

  • The Carreras en Salud program operated as designed. Students were placed in courses depending on their basic skills level along a seven-step career pathway, beginning with an English as a Second Language course for those as low as fourth-grade skill levels and continuing through the college-level LPN course. Carreras also provided a range of supports, including academic advising, assistance with support services, employment assistance, and tuition support.
  • The vast majority of treatment group members participated in at least one Carreras course, and completion rates for many programs were high. A significant portion of students progressed to the next course. The most common courses attended were in the “middle” of the Carreras pathway, and few reached the upper-level LPN course within the study’s 18-month follow-up period.
  • The Carreras program increased the hours of occupational training (the confirmatory outcome measured in this report) and basic skills instruction received over the follow-up period. The treatment group was also more likely than the control group to receive career counseling, help to arrange supports, and job search assistance.
  • The treatment group earned more credentials than the control group, primarily from a licensing or certification organization.
  • The Carreras program increased employment in the healthcare field and reduced the proportion of participants experiencing financial hardships.